Posts Tagged ‘cancer care’

Easing the Tension of Traveling for Cancer Treatment

Travel for TreatmentAs a social worker at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, I see many patients who travel from out of the state and the country in order to receive medical care. Their cancer treatment can sometimes be scheduled every day for six weeks or more. This can add a lot of stress to an already difficult situation.

It can be daunting to arrange all the transportation and lodging logistics, especially for an extended period of time. Patients and caregivers are also faced with being away from the comforts of their own home and support of loved ones who may live close by. Here are a few tips to consider if you have to travel for treatment:

  1. Contact your medical insurance company regarding travel benefits. Some insurers will provide transportation and lodging benefits in the form of reimbursements if patients must receive treatment a great distance from their home.
  2. Discuss hardships with your medical team. Make sure that your doctor and nurse navigator are aware of any financial hardship you are going through in order to get treatment. Some patients may be able to receive their therapy closer to home at a local infusion or radiation center. They can still continue to be followed by their preferred physician who is out of town.
  3. Reach out to loved ones for support. Many family members and friends may be unsure of how to help when a patient is undergoing treatment, however, they are longing to be able to provide some sort of assistance. Don’t be reluctant to request help with transportation or other needs.
  4. Consider holding a community fundraiser. Many families underestimate the cost of medical care and all that comes with it. Reality can hit when they are fully involved in the treatment process. Fundraisers are a great way to reach out to community members and request assistance. This assistance can then be used to help cover the extra expenses of transportation to a treatment facility or lodging away from home.
  5. Reach out to a social worker at the clinic where you or your family member receives treatment. There may be additional resources or discounts through community agencies that offer further support when a patient or family must travel

Finally, if you have to stay at a hotel during medical treatment, be sure to bring along some special items that will remind you of home. Photos, a cozy blanket and a favorite sweatshirt can help make home feel a whole lot closer. Click to learn more about available resources at Winship for our patients and families.

About Joy McCall, LCSW

Joy McCallJoy McCall is a Winship social worker with bone marrow transplant, hematology and gynecologic teams and their patients. She started her professional career at Winship as an intern, working with breast, gynecologic, brain and melanoma cancer patients. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Kennesaw State University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia. As part of her education she completed an internship with the Marcus Institute working on the pediatric feeding unit, and an internship counseling individuals and couples at Families First, supporting families and children facing challenges to build strong family bonds and stability for their future. She had previously worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for over 4 years, providing support to families and caregivers.

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What You Need to Know About Personalized Cancer Care

personal cancer careThe most promising advances in cancer treatment today center around personalized or precision medicine, but what exactly does that mean? We asked Dr. Fadlo Khuri, deputy director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, to explain the terms and help us understand who is benefitting from these types of treatment.

Q: What is personalized or precision medicine in cancer treatment?

Khuri: The best individualized care plan for every patient is one that delivers the most precise, informed and effective treatment possible. One of the new tools we use today in order to add to the patient’s medical history, social history, and pathologic diagnosis, is modern molecular testing.

Q: What is molecular testing?

Khuri: Molecular testing in cancer is performed on tissue taken during a tumor biopsy. Several tests can be done to reveal the genetic makeup of the mutation present in the cells of a particular cancer, such as non-small cell lung cancer. This genetic mapping, or DNA sequencing, is called genomics.

Q: People are familiar with genetic testing for the BRCA gene mutations that cause ovarian and breast cancers. But how are genomics or genetic targeting used in cancer treatment?

Khuri: Genomics uses modern DNA sequencing methods, recombinant DNA and informatics to study the complete genetic makeup of individual cells, patients, populations and their diseases. We learn how certain gene mutations, such as EGFR or ALK mutations in lung cancer, determine a tumor’s behavior and survival. We use these driver mutations to design treatments that specifically target the protein product of the mutated (or altered) genes. This leads to more targeted treatments based on an individual patient’s cancer.

Q: What is immunotherapy and how is it being used at Winship?

Khuri: Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that stimulates a patient’s own immune system to either work harder overall, or to attack cancer cells specifically. We are exploring immunotherapy at Winship through research and clinical trials. We have a series of clinical trials designed to activate or drive the immune system to recognize the individual’s cancer as foreign to their body, such as vaccines or immune checkpoint inhibitors, to attack the tumor.

Q: Which type of patients benefit from immunotherapy?

Khuri: Patients with leukemia, lymphomas, myeloma, lung cancer, kidney cancer and especially melanoma seem to benefit from immunotherapy. Other diseases are also being studied. Immunotherapies are demonstrating durable (long lasting) responses in a number of the above tumor types, and this has added a powerful new option to the toolbox of targeted therapies of cancer.

Q: What are the advantages and challenges?

Khuri: The advantages include the durability of the responses seen, but the people with cancer who benefit are in the minority so far. Efforts at developing efficient and precise ways to deliver immunotherapy are ongoing.

Q: What is the latest research at Winship that is related to precision medicine?

Khuri: Winship has clinical trials in myeloma, lung cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, colon cancer, thyroid cancer and melanoma which target specific driver mutations and are excellent examples of precision medicine.

Q: How have these approaches changed the way doctors now treat cancer patients?

Khuri: Many centers, like Winship, do reflex testing, which automatically sends a patient’s sample for a molecular screening panel that looks for tumor mutations. Certain gene mutations are known to drive cancer growth, cause drug resistance or susceptibility, or are currently under investigation as therapeutic targets in clinical trials, so the results of those tests can determine the type of treatment a patient receives.

About Dr. Khuri

Fadlo Khuri, MDFadlo R. Khuri, MD, deputy director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and Professor and Chairman of the Department of Hematology & Medical Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine, is a leading researcher and physician in the treatment of lung and head and neck cancers. He is Editor-in-Chief of the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cancer.
Dr. Khuri’s contributions have been recognized by a number of national awards, including the prestigious 2013 Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award, given to an outstanding cancer researcher by the American Association for Cancer Research.

An accomplished molecular oncologist and translational thought leader, Dr. Khuri has conducted seminal research on oncolytic viral therapy, developed molecular-targeted therapeutic approaches for lung and head and neck tumors combining signal transduction inhibitors with chemotherapy, and has led major chemoprevention efforts in lung and head and neck cancers. Dr. Khuri’s clinical interests include thoracic and head and neck oncology. His research interests include development of molecular, prognostic, therapeutic, and chemopreventive approaches to improve the standard of care for patients with tobacco related cancers. His laboratory is investigating the mechanism of action of signal transduction inhibitors in lung and aerodigestive track cancers.

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Genomic Testing for Lung Cancer: What Does it Mean for You?

Sign-up to Learn the Biology of Cancer

biology-cancerHave you ever wondered about the biology behind cancer? If so, join Assistant Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Gregg Orloff, Ph.D, on Tuesday, August 6 at noon for an interactive, live, web chat on the “Biology of Cancer.” He will be available to discuss questions such as:

  • What is cancer?
  • What causes cancer?
  • What can you do to prevent cancer?
  • How is cancer diagnosed and treated?
  • What is the role of infectious organisms like viruses in cancer?
  • Why and how cancer spreads.
  • Why do cancer drugs not always work.

This interesting chat will open your eyes to what cancer is and what you can do to help reduce the chances that you or your family members will be diagnosed with the disease.

Chat Sign Up

Survivorship Care Plan- Are You Prepared? Take-Aways from Web Chat

Cancer Survivorship SupportRecently, I conducted a chat with Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University on the Effects of Chemo and Radiation on Cancer Survivors. In 1978, as a child, I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. I received radiation and chemotherapy at that time that resulted in my development of significant late side effects in my adult life.

The participants asked some great questions. One particular question we did not have time to answer was,

“Did you find a survivorship care plan an effective tool for you or your parents once you moved from active treatment?”

For me, a cancer treatment summary or a survivorship care plan was extremely helpful after my active treatment. Without the knowledge from my parents and their guidance, I would not have been able to properly prepare a care plan.

I recommend that every cancer survivor become well informed and secure a treatment summary and survivorship care plan.  Consider it the first step in accepting responsibility for your personal health and well-being after cancer treatment.

A Cancer Treatment Summary should include the following information at a minimum:

  • Identifiers for you (name, medical record number and birthdate)
  • A description of your cancer diagnosis including pathology and staging information
  • A list of all treatments you have received (surgery, chemotherapy, biological therapy, hormonal therapy, and/or radiation therapy)
  • All dates and doses of treatment you received  (i.e. cumulative doses of anthracyclines)
  • Any significant side effects you experienced during treatment
  • Contact name and phone number of a member of your family or close friend
  • Names and Contact information of all providers involved in your care

A Survivorship Care Plan should include the following information at a minimum:

  • A Treatment Summary
  • A plan for long term follow-up including appointments and testing you will need and when you should have them
  • A list of any long term side effects that you need to be aware of and ways to handle them (including physical issues as well as emotional and social issues you may experience)

For more information on how to prepare your survivorship plan and the benefits of having one, check out the chat transcript.

About Stephanie Zimmerman

Stephanie’s personal experience as a child diagnosed and treated for Ewing’s Sarcoma in the late 1970’s led her to become a nurse serving the physical and psychosocial needs of children and their families along the cancer trajectory. In April 2008, Stephanie’s heart failed because of the chest radiation and Doxorubicin used to cure her Ewing’s Sarcoma three decades prior. Unable to return to clinical practice following a heart transplant, yet unwilling to abandon her passion for the survivor population, Stephanie partnered with Judy Bode of Grand Rapids, MI in the founding of myHeart, yourHands, Inc. [MHYH]

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Total Lung Clinic – Shaping the Future of Lung Cancer Care

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death among men and women in the United States. The causes of lung cancer can vary drastically, but individuals who smoke are undeniably at higher risk for lung cancer than those who don’t.

The specific cellular changes that occur as a result of lung cancer vary and are unique to each patient. These complex and unique genetic mutations, in combination with the fact that lung cancer is more advanced than most other cancers by the time it’s diagnosed, make lung cancer more difficult to treat than other cancers.

Here at the Winship Cancer Institute, our comprehensive lung cancer treatment program is shaping the future of lung cancer care by studying the effects of individualized cancer treatments. Individualized care involves understanding the unique biology of the genes that are driving each patient’s lung cancer or tumor, which results in a lung cancer treatment plan tailored to each patient’s specific needs.  And because the treatment of lung cancer involves a multidisciplinary and collaborative care team, we have established programs such as our TOTAL Lung Clinic to make the journey through treatment and survivorship an easier one.

Lung Cancer Chat Sign UpOn November 27th, Dr. Suresh Ramalingam of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is hosting an online chat on the topic of lung cancer to answer your questions and provide his feedback and insights on this complex disease. You can sign up for the lung cancer chat here, or using the button the right, and in the meantime, check out Dr. Ramalingam’s video to learn more about the benefits of individualized care for lung cancer patients.

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Take-Aways from Breast Cancer Chat with Heather Pinkerton, BSN

Breast Cancer Awareness MonthWe recently held a live web chat with Heather Pinkerton, RN, BSN, OCN and Nurse Navigator for the Emory Breast Center. During the discussion Heather Pinkerton answered questions about Breast Cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. Below you’ll find heather’s main highlights from the chat discussion.

The American Cancer Society estimated that for 2012, a total of 229,060 new cases of breast cancer would be diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. In honor of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, participants joined Heather Pinkerton for a live web chat on the topic of breast cancer.

Heather recommended that the general population of women begin screening mammograms at age 40. It should also be noted that if a person has a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, screening mammograms can and should start sooner. Potentially high-risk patients are advised to speak with their personal physician about what age is right for them to begin screening. For those concerned about being a potential high risk patient, The Emory Breast Center at the Winship Cancer Institute has a High Risk Assessment Clinic available. The clinic provides a comprehensive consultation that will include visits with a genetic counselor and breast surgical oncologist. At the end of each consultation, an individual care plan will be provided to each patient including recommendations for regular screenings and follow-up appointments.

Genetic tests are available to identify individual breast and ovarian cancer risk levels. These genetic mutation tests are known as BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. Anyone interested in undergoing these tests should speak with a genetic counselor regarding cost and specifics on coverage.

We also learned from Heather’s discussion in the chat that studies have shown that the relationship between taking birth control pills and developing breast cancer is insufficient to establish a cause-effect link between the two.

If you or someone you know is in need of support through their cancer journey, the Winship Cancer Institute has a several support groups pertaining to breast cancer, monthly at various locations. You can check out the event calendar here.

If you would like more information about breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and support contact 404-778-PINK (7465) or visit the Emory Breast Center at the Winship Cancer Institute.

You may also review the web chat transcript here with Heather Pinkerton, RN, BSN, OCN.

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Welcome to the Emory Healthcare Cancer Blog!

Welcome to Emory Healthcare’s new cancer blog! We’re glad to be a part of the innovative developments taking place at Emory Healthcare and the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, and we are looking forward to sharing helpful cancer information and resources with our community and the Web.

While cancer can be scary and overwhelming, we’re doing everything we can to help improve the quality of life and survivorship of our cancer patients at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute.

The posts you’ll find on this blog will come from physicians, patients, and staff of the Winship Cancer Institute and will span a broad range of topics. We will provide tips, advice, information about medical advances and new innovations in cancer treatment, survivorship resources, patient success stories and more.

The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the only National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer treatment center in Atlanta or the state of Georgia. As such, the cancer care provided by Winship at Emory is rooted in the latest medical research and advancements to ensure we provide the best possible patient care available.

Our goal is to treat cancer and seek the best possible outcomes for our patients, and to accompany our patients through their cancer journey from beginning to end, which often involves a lifetime of support. We want our patients to live the best quality life possible both during and after treatment and we are committed to providing the survivorship support and resources to help them do so.

Our cancer blog is an opportunity to bring awareness to the amazing medical advances in cancer treatment being made at Emory, but also to share success stories of our patients and their medical teams. We encourage you to subscribe to our blog feed and use the comments to share your feedback, questions, or suggestions for blog topics that interest you.